Charla Boley, who graduates this month from Seattle University School of Law, was awarded a prestigious Equal Justice Works (EJW) fellowship to continue her advocacy for economic justice and the legal rights of people with disabilities.
Boley joins a select group of public interest lawyers across the country chosen to receive the 2023 fellowship, which allows them to pursue a project of their own design for two years following graduation. This year, 76 public interest lawyers were selected from over 318 applicants.
Her project is sponsored by Microsoft and DLA Piper and will be based at the Benefits Law Center in Seattle, which provides culturally and linguistically competent legal services and education to immigrants, people of color, and people with disabilities in South King County.
“My Equal Justice Works fellowship has afforded me the opportunity to serve the low-income and disability community in South King County as a resource that empowers and supports the agency and voice of others,” she said. “I am humbled to work on a project that values and uplifts the dignity and identities of people with disabilities.”
Boley was inspired to pursue disability law from her personal and professional life where she has seen loved ones and community members struggle to obtain and then keep Social Security benefits. Her work in early education and housing exposed her to the importance of projects that recognize the intersections of race, income, and disability.
Families of color and immigrants living in South King County experience tremendous barriers in accessing disability benefits. Boley explained that while household members may be eligible, many families are afraid to apply based on fear of immigration consequences, putting them at risk of income insecurity and homelessness.
Many families have members who are receiving benefits but are unsure how to navigate or comply with the program’s rules because of limited English proficiency.
As part of her fellowship, Boley will provide legal services to immigrants and families of color, conduct monthly trainings, and create self-help materials on relevant issues. Additionally, she will create partnerships with organizations serving this community and recruit and train pro bono attorneys to increase the project’s reach.
The EJW fellowship is one of the most prestigious and competitive post-graduate legal fellowships in the country.
Headquartered in Washington, D.C., EJW aims to break down the financial and structural barriers that prevent talented law graduates from pursuing careers in the public interest sector. Throughout the two-year project term, fellows receive the support they need to focus on helping their communities, including a competitive salary, benefits, and loan repayment assistance.
Previous EJW two-year fellowship recipients from Seattle University School of Law include Gabi Nava ’21, Vallen Solomon ’20, Javiera Wood ’20, Alex Romero '19, Hyun-Mi Kim '19, Archie Roundtree, Jr. '18, Nick Allen '10, and Erin Shea McCann '07.